What do you want to be when you grow up?

A post from our student blogger Josh

I last submitted to this blog two weeks ago, regarding how classes were progressing thus far and my first impressions of transitioning to life as a Notre Dame student. Since then, we’ve had a number of seminars through our Friday “lunch and learn” program that have enlightened us as to what we could be doing with our future in patent law. We’ve thus far seen presenters from boutique intellectual property law groups, our own legal career services center, and Notre Dame Alumni who work in IP. If your life vaguely resembles mine, then you’re at the point where everyone from your closest friends to your cousin’s dog is incapable of having a conversation with you without asking “what do you want to do with your degree?” Some of us have gotten used to this line of questioning (I had to answer it all the way through undergrad, explaining that not all astrophysicists work with telescopes and not all philosophers are unemployed), but having to decide what in patent law one wants to do involves a new layer of exploration. Thankfully, thus far MSPL has done an excellent job of showing us that there are a variety of ways that one can make use of a skillset involving the analysis, authorship, and prosecution of patents.

For instance, today we had a speaker who discussed what it means to work in the field of patent searching. While we have a class on searching that meets every Tuesday and hear many anecdotes about what it’s like to professionally perform searches, it’s always nice to hear about a given profession from multiple practitioners who work in different places. Patent searches are requisitioned by a variety of groups, from universities to law firms, and from private companies to the patent office itself. Searches are performed for a plethora of reasons, and each search has to be tailored based on the technology itself and what the client desires to do with the results. This may sounds crazy to some of you, but I personally dig the idea of being a professional searcher. Think about it; our generation has been using Google since we were kids. While Google certainly isn’t the only tool in a patent searcher’s arsenal (more of a helpful companion to the databases one would actually use in a professional setting), the basic premise of manipulating a series of search terms in order to produce a handful of useful results is essentially the same. Intellectual property searches are often a key part of the knowledge basis for many decisions in the business world, and the ability to be at the front end of acquiring and presenting such information makes a neat premise for a career.

I only have a limited amount of space here to expound upon the possibilities of what one can do with a MSPL, which is why I’m certain that a few of my future posts will contain other possible career paths for those of you who chose to enroll in this program. Today my mind is on searching (and tomorrow it will likely be on the football game), but future careers as a patent prosecutor, or a research analyst for mergers and acquisitions firms, or any number of other options cross my mind frequently. I have a bio on the website here, which says that I would be interested in being a patent agent focused on mechanical technologies. However, what that patent agent will do, who he will work for, and in what capacity he will work with said mechanical technologies is still quite a mystery. However, this program has continuously shown me that there are a number of possibilities for a professional with a background in intellectual property, and I’m certain I will be able to find one that satisfies my tastes.

Building blocks

StonehengeA post from our student blogger Brittany

This is not your traditional Masters program, our cohort is comprised of several students having educational backgrounds in civil engineering, biology, astrophysics and even a few students with doctorates. I state that not to brag about how educated we are but to say that even with so many educated people in a room, we are ALL new to the field of patent law and are looking to this program to train us to be competent patent practitioners.

Walking into a room with several lanyards laid out and my first thought was “Yes more free stuff” (grad school made me appreciate the freer things in life). To my surprise, we had to write claims for our specific lanyard. Our group spent DAYS describing that darn lanyard to ensure that another group could correctly chose it based on our description. Being able to agree on terms of art or something as simple as deciding between the metric or imperial system to define measurements can be rather difficult. We’ve had a few widgets we’ve had to write claims for and geez is it difficult, but these interactive assignments are providing us the foundation by which to write more elaborate claims for rather complicated inventions.

Patent law building blocks, including claim writing, have been the focus in almost every class. For example, in our Patent Searching class we are learning to use several databases to find issued patents and patent applications relevant to our capstone projects. Deciding on what keywords to use for a search strategy and when to adjust the initial search strategy are important building blocks for determining the patentability of an invention. A thorough search has to be completed before any claims can be written because that will set the stage for the rest of the patent drafting process. Unbeknownst to me, people can have a lucrative career solely as a patent searcher, so that should let you know just how imperative it is.

Obtaining such building blocks will set us apart from people that jump into the patent law field merely because they have an extensive background in science or engineering and don’t want to take a “traditional” route. Being able to properly complete a prior art search and draft an application with a strong claimset will prove to be a great selling point to any potential employer.

Call me sometime when you have no class

cannon_rockA post from our student blogger Nicole

So today I decided to focus solely on our Patent Law and Prosecution class.  For those of you that don’t know, Patent Law and Prosecution is here to help you with an understanding of the legal base of the US patent system.  It will help you become familiar with MPEP sections important for the practice of a patent agent.    I would like to start off by saying all of our teachers are hilarious, and today I’m going to focus on our funny prosecution teacher.

He really knows how to make the class interesting and keep us focused.  My favorite part of his class is when he shows us examples of patent applications related to the topic being discussed.  Some of them are so ridiculous and funny you wouldn’t believe how kooky people are.  Either that or they just have way too much time on their hands and nothing to spend their money on.  Let’s take application 11/161,345 for example (I say application because it was never patented, only published).  First off the title is Godly Powers.  Yes you read that right.  Someone actually tried to get a patent for godly powers, but beware if you’re a magician because he doesn’t like you!  This patent is definitely worth reading so I would read it if I were you!  Another patent we looked at was patent 3,963,275 Method of Breaking Free-Standing Rock Boulders.  The title doesn’t seem too bad until you see the picture!  A canon? Who uses canons to break rocks?  The patent was from 1976, but I’m pretty sure we stopped using canons in the 1900’s.  There were others as well, but I won’t spoil his class by giving away all the funny patents he likes to show.  You’ll just have to wait and see for yourself!  And by that I mean come here and become part of the Notre Dame Patent Law family!

Another thing that’s great about his class is when we do patent bar questions from old patent bar exams.  He wants us to be ready for the real exam, and what’s even better is he makes you real nervous during class because you don’t know if he’s going to call on you or not.  But don’t freak out too bad if he does, because he will help you get through the question or you can phone a friend for help!  I find these questions very helpful and hopefully you will too.  There are a bunch of little tips he tells us that will help with the exam so definitely take note of them!

P.S. The title is dedicated to my dad because it’s his favorite quote!


A post from our student blogger Josh

I’ve wanted to do a number of things with my life at various points (racecar driver, musician, astronaut, brewer, the eclectic list of childhood/teenage dreams goes on). Had you asked me a year ago if I was going to study patent law at Notre Dame after college, I’d have probably given you a sideways glance. That being said, I’m here now, and I have to say there’s a certain appeal to doing a single year of study at a new institution, surrounded by new people and looking at life from a different perspective. Alright, it’s not as exciting as piloting a formula 1 car or going to space, but bear with me, because attending this program on this campus has thus far been one of the better decisions I’ve ever made. I’m not entirely sure where to begin, as the others have already enlightened you as to what boot camp and the first week of classes were like. But, since everyone experiences these things uniquely, I’ll elaborate on my time thus far.

Upon exiting my bus into town, I was greeted by my new roommate Evan, who escorted me and my bags to the swimming pool I would live in for the next nine months. No, you didn’t misread that; my apartment is a converted swimming pool, which until recently was a relatively popular concert venue in South Bend (feel free to Google it). After unpacking my bag and setting up the mattress I ordered, I set about exploring South Bend, and eventually stumbled on Notre Dame. The campus is truly as breathtaking as others have articulated (aside from seeing Rudy, I’d had no prior experience with this place whatsoever). I can assure you that being able to call such a beautiful place my temporary home is a spectacular feeling; though I will readily admit that I initially found the size of campus quite intimidating. This was quickly remedied when I realized that Google Maps was capable of directing me to each of my class buildings, and within a week I began to feel like I truly knew my way around.

When it comes to classes (and I may get in some degree of trouble for saying this), I haven’t found them to be a significant step up in difficulty from of those of my undergraduate career in physics. Truthfully, the most difficult components of this program for me to adjust to thus far have been the emphasis on precision writing, coupled with developing the time management skills necessary to juggle five classes and a Capstone project. All of this while trying to adjust to a new location can be a bit of a challenge, but I assure you it’s nothing that anyone reading this post couldn’t handle. The professors are professionally experienced and talented when it comes to making once foreign material seem approachable and second nature. They inspire confidence in our ability to succeed, yet their wealth of knowledge and high expectations also induce a sobering humbleness. One gets the sense that each of them has so much to offer his or her students that the real challenge here isn’t being able to complete the program; it’s getting as much from it as it has to offer.

If you’re anything like me, then you’ve already read the student profiles on this page. When I first did, I thought “I don’t have a PhD, I haven’t written a paper on Alpha-synuclein Elevation Blah Blah Blah, I didn’t work for a law firm, I don’t have a J.D., how will I ever succeed here?” Yet, I feel at home in this program. I get to sit alongside people who are as educated as I am or more so, while feeling like a peer and learning from the best. I have class daily with civil engineers, molecular biologists, neuroscientists and chemists; yet I feel right at home, learning with them and from them. I’ve never been in a situation where I could realize the value of having so many scientists of different disciplines learning foreign subject matter together, but the experience thus far has been unique and unforgettable. If I had a bottom line for this post, it would be to say that this program is completely doable and worthwhile, at least from the perspective of a new student. I certainly never expected that I’d attend Notre Dame, live in a swimming pool, or have a future in Patent Law; but what would be the point in living if everything happened as I once predicted?


A post from student blogger Brittany

touchdownI finally touchdown at Notre Dame and I am absolutely in love with the campus. It is breathtaking and despite living in Florida for the last couple of years I am excited about the first snowfall although from speaking to current students and faculty that feeling will be short-lived due to unforgiving temps.

Our first week consisted of a getting familiar with fellow cohort members. I must say we all have very diverse educational backgrounds but have already found commonalities and I feel this will be a great group. We all showed up ON TIME for our headshot which Karen said was a first so I think we’re off to a record setting start. We attended a South Bend Cubs game and of course we had to let everyone know that the 2015 MSPL cohort was in the house. Two classmates decided to partake in some half time shenanigans by racing on the field…on bouncy balls. It’s safe to say that neither of them will be living that down.

Outside of our “getting to know you” activities we were also thrust into the world of patent law by an outstanding presenter. Because of his 20+ years in the field he was so insightful, thorough and most of all honest about life as a patent agent. I’m not going to lie, it was a lot of material to take in especially for someone that had just completed her dissertation less than a month prior. I had to get right back into student mode, feverishly taking notes making sure not to miss a thing. The week ended with a mock Patent Bar Exam. Let’s just say that I walked home feeling completely defeated questioning what the heck I had gotten myself into. That practice test made me quickly realize that if I thought these 9 months would be a walk in the park compared to 5 years of research that I was DEAD WRONG.

Meeting all the professors who were a combination of patent agents and attorneys was quite interesting. I was pleased that we were learning from people that had YEARS of hands-on experience in the field. It was already refreshing that Karen was so down to earth and witty, but each of our professors have comical personalities as well.

All in all, being at Notre Dame these last two weeks have subsided the apprehension I had about making a career transition and made me realize how many doors this program could open for me. Being in the program is already getting me out of my comfort zone and I look forward to sharing my ups and downs throughout the next 9 months.

First impressions

A post from our student blogger Nicole

When I wrote my first blog I thought that New Jersey was far from Notre Dame, but when it came to meeting everyone in the program I realized I was completely wrong.  It turns out the 12 hours of driving I struggled with didn’t compare to the 24 plus hours of driving from California or Washington.  I’m also shocked at the different variety of people from mostly coastal states like Maine, Florida, Washington, and California.  This makes it more interesting to learn about everyone especially what their backgrounds were, for example, if they have their PhD or just graduated in May, and what their major was.  There’s quite a variety in this program.

The first week of “classes” aka bootcamp was great.  Yes bootcamp does sound harsh and intense, but it was actually a very informational and fun week!  Art, a retired patent agent, was a great guest speaker and his overview of patent law definitely helped for the first week of classes.  Also, some of the tools Karen showed us, such as, PAIR and the MPEP came in handy for our classes already!  You will hear multiple times that the MPEP is our bible, and so far I believe it!  Aside from learning, there was also some fun.  The South Bend Cubs game we went to was a great bonding experience.  If you ever want to find out if your fellow patent law grads are brave enough to go down onto the field and race with some hopper balls, yes the kind with the handle that’s made for 5 year olds, then a Cubs game is the place to go!  All of us are secretly going to keep those videos we took and use them for blackmail one day if needed.

The first week of actual classes went very well and the teachers are fantastic.  They all have their own sense of humor, which definitely helps you feel comfortable right away.  The classes you take for patent law will be capstone, patent searching, patent law and prosecution, and patent drafting.  I know that all of these classes will be extremely helpful when we become patent agents.  As for the capstone class you take, you will meet a professor on campus that will show you their idea that they want patented.  This will become your capstone project, and you will work on it all year.  You might get something crazy like me and end up working with devices for lab rats!  It’s really fascinating to learn about their ideas and you can sense their passion for their idea when they talk.  You really get to see how brilliant these people are.  By the end of the week I was already feeling like a patent agent.  There was also a new welcome gathering for master’s students that most of us went to at the end of the week.  Graduate students from ESTEEM, ACMS, Global Health, and our program were invited to go.  It was a nice networking experience as well as a fun time.

As for the campus of Notre Dame, it’s huge!  I came from a small campus in New Jersey and walking would get you from one end to the other.  Notre Dame on the other hand, will have you sweating buckets and losing weight by the time you make it to the other side!  Maybe that’s a little drastic, but it sure feels that way.  A bike will help you get everywhere on campus in a significantly shorter time, unless you run into the massive river of people between DeBartolo Hall and O’Shaughnessy Hall.  I was actually surprised to see that many people at once!  So one last thing, you should go to the Compton Ice Rink at least once during your time at Notre Dame.  It’s the building across from the basketball stadium that looks super lonely and separated from the rest of the buildings on campus.  They offer public skating at certain times of the day and there’s a bonus, it’s free for students!  You just have to pay to rent skates which is super cheap; $3 will get you an hour and 20 minutes of enjoyable skating!  So strap on your skates and I’ll see you there!